Tara and I went camping on Sunday for Mother’s Day in Silver Falls State Park. We’ve been camping on Mother’s Day, rain or shine, since the kid was in middle school.
This year it was time to find a new place. Over the years I have had Silver Falls recommended for a hike because of the trails and waterfalls. This state park is over 9000 acres. It’s enormous. There is only one place to camp: a managed campground with paved roads, landscaping, indoor toilets, showers, several camp hosts and an office where you check in and have your problems addressed. There are 103 single-family sites and 3 group sites. I reserved our space online. It’s not at all the kind of place that T and I typically enjoy. We’re more of the kind to pull over in a wide spot in the road, and lug our stuff through the trees till we find a flat spot beside a creek.
So with initial trepidation, it was a relief and a delight to find it lovely. Full of people, yes, but overall a very acceptable large campground. It’s set up so that we could see a few campsites right next to us, but there are too many trees and strategically-placed bushes to get a sense of how big the place is from the inside. We will certainly come back some time.
I have one complaint. Even while our two vehicles fit perfectly well with lots of space left over on the paved pad at our campsite, there is a strict “extra vehicle” charge. And while others arrived in gigantic trucks and huge RVs that could barely fit, Tara’s teeny tiny Chevy Aveo was banished outside the park – outside the whole park! – or else pay the fee. We feigned not having made a decision yet, so the Ranger let us alone on her first trip through. No one showed up again that night and we celebrated that we had gotten away with a free second car. We assumed that we were so well behaved, and the extra car was so tiny, that they would certainly leave us alone. Nope. First thing in the morning they got us! I paid the fee.
We had a laid-back evening, exploring the campground a little. There are trails of many lengths that begin from the campground itself, from a one-mile nature trail crossing two small creeks, to a 7.2 mile loop past 10 waterfalls. It was perfect. That evening we walked to a wooden covered bridge over a walking path across the Silver Creek South Fork. We explored nearby campsites to find the best one for next time, and then we went walking on the nature trail.
We roasted sausages by the fire and talked and talked. Man, I love that kid.
Our plan was to get up early and start hiking first thing in the morning and do the 7.2 mile trail and hit all those waterfalls! We got up nice and early, but the weather had changed in the night, and it was cold. C-c-c-cold. So we moved slowly. I got the last of the sausages frying on my little stove, dropped in four eggs, and when it was close to done, topped up the scramble with some white cheddar. Yum! We made tea and held our cups in our hands to warm them, but it wasn’t enough. We finally got out of there, but it was with creaky, frozen joints.
On the map I saw there was a café! I mean, this place, seriously. So we walked from the campground almost a mile to the place where the café was supposed to be, which was on the way to the falls anyway. There is an adjacent lodge that holds a restaurant and I would have been happy for either, to go indoors, get a hot coffee and thaw out. The sign on the door said “closed Mondays.”
Out on the wide surrounding porch of the place, we sat for a bit because Tara needed to get a rock out of their boot. On inspection, it was not a rock, but a nail, newly erupted through the bottom of the boot. It had pushed up from the sole into the boot and had torn a hole in Tara’s sock. We could not begin a hike like this.
“I’ll be fine,” Tara insisted, not wanting to go back.
“You’ll be sorry, and you’ll be miserable, if you don’t protect your foot before this hike,” I said. Twenty years of hiking knocked all the tough-guy out of me. If there’s something wrong with your boots, it needs to be addressed immediately.
We hiked the mile back to camp. Tara put on two layers of socks and put a moleskin patch where the nail head is pushing up into the shoe. We hiked another mile back to where we had last left off.
We hit the trail in earnest and in about 100 yards we were met with the grandeur of the first jaw-dropping waterfall.
I had my geologist Tara along with me on this hike, which added a fun dimension. Tara pointed out lava rock when I wasn’t expecting it, and of course the ever-present basalt columns that make these astonishing waterfalls possible. Tara also talked about the common rock types in Oregon, because of the millennia of volcanic eruptions, and described their favourite rock type: schist. Tara likes schist because other kinds of rock come together to make a new rock, called schist. I asked if that’s what geologists yell as an exclamation. “Schist!” You’ve heard of Dad Jokes, well, I do Mom jokes.
The next waterfall on the journey was Lower South Falls.
After our slow start due to the cold and the nail in Tara’s shoe, we were out of time and couldn’t make the whole waterfall trip. We will save it for another day. For the return trip, we went uphill and zig zagged up the slopes and returned along the ridgeline for a wholly different kind of look at the forest.
We then made the trip back to our campground and packed up the tent which had dried out by now. We were no longer freezing, and that made packing up easier. After big smooshy hugs, we said goodbye. Tara left south to go back to their college town of Corvallis, and I left to head north to home in Rainier.